Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu on Saturday rued that humans, in their quest for development, had harmed nature “beyond repair” and called for a peoples movement to protect it.
He also urged the countrys lower courts to hold an eco-centric view and keep in mind interests of local populations and biodiversity while passing judgments.
Naidu was addressing a gathering after inaugurating The International Conference on Environmental Diversity and Environmental Jurisprudence at Chandigarh University in Mohali.
“In the quest for development, we have harmed nature beyond repair, destroyed forests, disrupted the ecological balance, polluted the environment, encroached upon water bodies and are now reaping the adverse consequences, Naidu said.
“My words appear to be very harsh but they are real. What is required is the change of mindset. We have enough laws and enough regulations but what is required is the change of mindset.
Unless this environmental protection becomes a peoples movement worldwide, the future is very bleak,” he noted.
“We are are seeing the consequences. We have played with nature and nature is playing with us,” he added.
Calling on all stakewholders to strike a balance between development and maintaining ecological balance, Naidu also appealed to lawmakers to take cognisance of the importance of protecting biodiversity, mitigating climate change and formulating legislations that maintain a fine balance between “ecology and economy”.
“It is not only the duty of the government to deliberate, but of human being on Earth to save this planet,” he said.
Naidu stressed that India has always been leading the world in climate action.
He reiterated Indias commitment to fulfill the ambitious national targets set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the COP 26 Summit in Glasgow recently.
“…Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared our national targets of raising our non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030 and achieving the target of Net Zero by 2070,” he said.
“With enabling policies, institutional push and collective action, these targets are certainly achievable. The last aspect, that is of collective action, is the most crucial. In the words of the prime minister, what we need is a mass movement of eco-conscious lifestyles,” Naidu said.
Lauding the Indian higher judiciary for upholding environmental justice over the years, Naidu said, “There are many landmark judgments of the Supreme Court and the high courts that have played a crucial role in not only delivering environmental justice but also in generating a public discourse about environmental conservation.” He stressed that the lower courts, too, needed to uphold this eco-centric view and keep the best interests of the local populations and biodiversity in their judgments.
“They must act stringently against violators of pollution laws and consider strict enforcement of the Polluter Must Pay principle wherever needed,” Naidu said.
He was of the opinion that there was an urgent need to train more legal practitioners in environmental law, given the importance of preserving biodiversity, ongoing climate change and the growing demand for environmental litigation.
“The poorer sections should be made aware of their rights and the legal recourse at their disposal. If need be, more specialised benches must be created in various parts of the country and environmental justice be brought closer to people,” Naidu said.
He emphasised on empowering pollution control boards and local civic bodies with the wherewithal of resources, technical expertise and punitive powers to implement environmental laws effectively.
“Gram Panchayats, which are empowered by the Constitution to take measures such as water management, soil conservation and forestry need to be further bolstered with funds for this purpose. Effective functioning of these grassroot level bodies is critical in handling the climatic challenges of today and the future, the Vice President said .
Referring to how Indian culture has always revered nature, Naidu said India had enshrined principles of environmental protection in the Constitution and passed many related laws “even before environmental discourse gained pace in the developed world”.
“This spirit draws heavily from our ancient values that look at human existence as part of the natural environment and not as one that exploits it,” he added.
The Vice President also felt the need to create awareness among the students about the carbon and ecological footprint contributed due to ones lifestyle choices.
“Man has tinkered too long with nature. Today, there is an urgent need to reverse this hazardous trend. It is a question of a mindset, an attitude, an ability to control human greed,” Naidu said.
Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit, Supreme Court judges Justice Surya Kant and Justice Bhushan Ramkrishna Gavai, National High Court of Brazil judge Justice Antonio Herman Benjamin and Chief Justice of the High Court of Himachal Pradesh Justice Mohammad Rafiq were present on the occassion.
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